Protecting Yourself Against the Flu
Guest column by Wanda Carey, BSN, RN, CIC, manager of Infection Control at Norwood Hospital
Flu season has begun in Massachusetts, and with it the need to reacquaint ourselves with the best ways to safeguard ourselves and our loved ones from becoming sick this winter.
Flu, or influenza, is a viral disease of the body's respiratory system, including nose, throat and lungs. The most common symptoms include fever, cough and sore throat. They can also include body aches, headache, chills, runny nose and tiredness. Flu can be very serious, each year causing thousands of hospitalizations. Some people are at higher risk of serious health problems when they get the flu, including pregnant women, infants, the elderly and people with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and weakened immune systems.
Your defense against the flu:
A vaccine is available to protect you from the flu. It is important to be inoculated each year, because the vaccine changes to incorporate current flu strains. This year's vaccine includes the H1N1 virus.
Norwood Hospital is offering a public flu clinic on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The clinic, which will be held in the Emergency Department waiting room, is offered for those ages 15 and over at a cost of $20 per person.
In addition to being vaccinated, good hand hygiene and other precautions will help prevent you and your family from getting the flu. A few tips:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand gel.
- Always wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the inside of your elbow. Throw tissues away and wash your hands.
- Use household cleaners on things that are touched often, like door knobs, toys, and phones.
- Avoid close physical contact (6 feet) with people who are sick.
- People with young children, a weak immune system or a chronic illness should avoid crowds.
- Stay home from work or school if you get sick with a flu-like illness. Avoid contact with others so the virus does not spread. Stay at home until you have been free from fever for at least 24 hours.
Flu season usually begins in early winter and lasts at least until early spring in New England. Act now, by getting vaccinated and incorporating the prevention strategies listed above to stay flu free this year.
Wanda Carey has been a nurse for 32 years, and infection control manager for Norwood Hospital since 1993. She speaks and writes frequently on infection prevention issues for community forums.